Saturday, March 6, 2010

Street Urchin to President of Company

Too many have to start off life with two strikes against them. The Chosun Ilbo reported on a young man in yesterday's paper that never was even registered at birth and is now a president of his company at the age of 23. The road was far from easy.

Choi Jong-ho's father died when he was 7 years old . The family lived in the slums around Seoul train station. His mother escaping from the money lenders left her son and older daughter to fend for themselves. Choi's older sister worked in Seoul. When the other children his age where going to school he was in the city markets doing odd jobs and sleeping in an amusement hall.

From 7 to the age of 11 he worked on a farm of relatives. He was in contact, by telephone, with his sister in Seoul. This contact was a great consolation until she was killed by a hit and run driver, a big shock to him in his young life.

He ran away from the home of his relatives taking the few pennies they gave him, and bought a ticket to Seoul. He found his mother who was living with his step father, a blind peddler, who sold fingernail cutters in Seoul station. The mother left the home again a year and half later.

Choi was picked up by the police for thievery and was sent to a home run by the Sisters of St. Paul who had in their care 9 children who had no place to go. This was in the winter of 2000.

Today he is the president of a company selling health products which expanded into selling salt that is baked. Last year he had sales over 300 thousand dollars.

The Sisters retelling his story have a lot to cry about. While at the Center any time he was provoked, he would run away. On his return, the Sister in charge would give him different responsibilities and was very effusive with her praise. The young man mentioned later this praise enabled him to change. He cried a great deal in front of Sister, and this crying made him less afraid of the future. In 2006 he passed the government exam that enabled him to enter the International School of Social Welfare. Sister was overcome with excitement.

After 18 years of age you no longer get funds from the government, so the Sisters were faced with how to help these young men who were having trouble getting and keeping a job. Often they would get into trouble and end up on the street again; this situation prompted her to start the company that is run by President Choi. From the money that they earned they founded the 'St. Paul Nawoori company', and found a place to house the 11 boys between the ages of 20 to 36.

They have received great praise for the product of baked salt that they make, approved for the good mineral content by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). They travel to the different churches on Sunday selling their product, and the income they receive goes into the bank for these young men.

Mr. Choi found his mother and occasionally was in contact. She was found in a small street where she collapsed with terminal cancer, and taken to a hospital. The operators of the ambulance notified the son and on the way to the hospital the mother said to her son she was sorry for what happened in his life because of her. The mother died alone a week later. Her body was still warm when Mr. Choi and the Sister arrived; the Sister told Mr. Choi if you have any words for your mother say them now, she will hear you. Mr. Choi with trembling lips said: "Mother, leave everything behind and go to heaven, and when you meet my older sister without fail tell her that you are sorry."

The desire of Mr. Choi is to find work for all his brothers now living together. He wants a place for a brother to work fixing cars, another to begin a bakery and all have something that will allow them to live an ordinary life. That is his dream.

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